The nucleus accumbens (NAc), consisting of core (NAcC) and shell (NAcS) sub-regions, has primarily been studied as a locus mediating the effects of drug reward and addiction. However, there is ample evidence that this region is also involved in regulating aversive responses, but the exact role of the NAc and its subregions in regulating associative fear processing remains unclear. Here, we investigated the specific contribution of the NAcC and NAcS in regulating both fear expression and fear extinction in C57BL/6J mice. Using Arc expression as an indicator of neuronal activity, we first show that the NAcC is specifically active only in response to an associative fear cue during an expression test. In contrast, the NAcS is specifically active during fear extinction. We next inactivated each subregion using lidocaine and demonstrated that the NAcC is necessary for fear expression, but not for extinction learning or consolidation of extinction. In contrast, we demonstrate that the NAcS is necessary for the consolidation of extinction, but not fear expression or extinction learning. Further, inactivation of mGluR1 or ERK signaling specifically in the NAcS disrupted the consolidation of extinction but had no effect on fear expression or extinction learning itself. Our data provide the first evidence for the importance of the ERK/MAPK pathway as the underlying neural mechanism facilitating extinction consolidation within the NAcS. These findings suggest that the NAc subregions play dissociable roles in regulating fear recall and the consolidation of fear extinction, and potentially implicate them as critical regions within the canonical fear circuit.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Published in Neurobiology of Stress, Volume 15, 2021.
2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license.
Dutta, S., Beaver, J., Halcomb, C. J., & Jasnow, A. M. (2021). Dissociable roles of the nucleus accumbens core and shell subregions in the expression and extinction of conditioned fear. Neurobiology of Stress, 15, 100365. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ynstr.2021.100365